Does digital make physical information obsolete?

I was always a hoarder. Tidying my flat yesterday offered a reminder of this – old mobile phones; broken sunglasses; shoeboxes of sampler/demo CDs. And magazines. Lots and lots of magazines.

However, that was me. I’m not sure if it still is me.

There were several reasons I kept and stored things – laziness, the chance they could come in useful or the chance that they might appreciate in value.

So at my parent’s home, I still have boxes of Beano, Match, Amiga Power, FHM and so on. And in my flat I have piles of the Economist, Observer Sport/Music Monthly and the odd glossy magazine.

But I might be moving soon. And do I really need to transport them with me?

Their mass production and less than mint condition means they aren’t collectible. The notional value of storage space probably outweighs their resale value. And, unlike when I first started reading magazines, I have the internet.

Why do I need to re-read something when there is more new content available than ever before. Why do I need to go dig out an old piece of paper when I can type in a search term? Why worry about space when there is near limitless bandwidth?

There is still some sentimental value to owning something tangible (e.g. I won’t be throwing away my copy of Filament) and some things can still be considered collectible (e.g. I have all the issues of 52) but there is less need to keep everything else on the off chance of usefulness.

There are of course downsides to this. Hard-drives aren’t indestructible (and I am particularly poor at backing things up) and permalinks are only permanent within the host’s benevolence and continued existence. I may have access to the Economist’s online archive now, but the moment my subscription lapses that privilege vanishes.

But the dusty, ripped, faded copies of my magazines shows that the physical isn’t permanent either. And while the chances of a burglary or house fire are lower than that of a computer/internet malfunction, that may soon change.

So, like the workplace where the only physical items it seems we need to archive are those involving paper self-completion surveys or signed documents (and how long before digital signatures become the norm?), my private archives may soon be going online.

One question is now what to do with everything. Recycling bin; charity shop; or ebay?

And what else can I switch to non-physical?

sk

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gord99/

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2 Responses

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  2. its a dilemma for sure.
    I have about 5 years of Mojo magazine (complete) – part of me wants to get rid but I’m torn.
    Exactamundo re hard drives. i’m sure wev’e all been burned on that one.
    I’m of an age to be nervous about what happens if the internet ever breaks.. 😉

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